Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Second Sunday in Lent



Second Sunday in Lent (B)

March 4, 2012
Text: Mark 8:27-38

The problem for Peter, the problem for you and I, is a false understanding of who Jesus is, what that means, and what it means for us to be Christians, those who follow Jesus. Peter believed in Jesus. He believed Jesus to be the Christ, God’s anointed sent to save Israel. But he didn’t understand that Jesus came not to be a political Savior of Israel from Roman tyranny, but the Savior of all people from sin, death, and the devil. Peter didn’t understand that Jesus came to save, not by some glorious display of power or a military revolution, but by submitting to sinners, submitting to death, submitting to hell itself. Jesus is indeed the Christ. That part Peter got right. But He is the Christ in this way: He dies for our sins. He takes our place on the cross. He suffers condemnation, hell, in our place. He is our substitute. “(T)he Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31; ESV). Any other Jesus, a Jesus who saves in any other way, is, in reality, no Savior at all. Such a Jesus is a false god. Such a Jesus is an illusion of Satan, the father of lies.

There are many opinions out there about who Jesus is. Some say He is a great teacher. Others say He is a political revolutionary. Still others would make Him a champion of human rights. Some preach Jesus as a stern Lawgiver. Others proclaim Him a permissive enabler who affirms whatever choices you make in life. Some believe Jesus is a Republican. Others claim that He is a staunch Democrat. Some accuse Jesus of misogyny, of being a woman-hater. Others say He is a radical feminist. It is always helpful, at least here in the United States, to claim Jesus for your cause. But whatever the cause, even if it’s noble, understand this: You cannot put Jesus in a box. You cannot dictate to Jesus what He is to teach and what He is to do for you. You cannot bend Jesus into whatever shape is convenient for you at the time. A designer Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. A designer Jesus is not the living Savior, who was crucified for your sins and is raised from the dead, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Again, a designer Jesus is an idol, a satanic illusion.

At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the people had their own opinions about who Jesus is and what they would like Him to be and do. Some believed He was John the Baptist, raised from the dead after Herod had him beheaded. Some believed He was Elijah, on the basis of a misunderstanding of Malachi’s prophecy (Mal. 4:5) that Elijah would come before the appearing of the Messiah (It was really John the Baptist who fulfilled that prophecy, coming in the spirit and prophetic office of Elijah). Others believed He was another great prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah. They all got it wrong. Of course, Jesus is the Prophet par excellence. But He is so much more than a prophet. He is the One to whom all the prophets pointed, the One of whom they wrote and spoke. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed of God, the Son of God in human flesh, come to save His people, not from the Romans, but from their sins. By dying. By shedding His holy, precious blood. By His innocent suffering and death. It must be so. It is a divine necessity, the will of God, the only way. Justice must be met for our sin. It is either Him or us. Either He must stand in for us, or we must die and be subject to an eternity in hell. Out of great love for us, the Savior takes our place. He dies that we might live. He suffers hell that we might enjoy eternity in heaven. And on the Last Day, our risen Lord Jesus will come in His glory with the holy angels and raise us from the dead.

Peter does not understand all this death and resurrection stuff, either. Nor does he like it. Peter has just confessed on behalf of all the Apostles that Jesus is no mere prophet, but the Christ, the Savior promised by God in all the Old Testament Scriptures. He gets that part right. But he thinks that Jesus should win the victory over all His enemies by a glorious display of power and might. He believes Jesus should march into Jerusalem and assume the throne of His father David, kick that wicked usurper King Herod out of town, and declare independence from Rome. By a word, Jesus could defeat legion upon legion of Roman soldiers. By a word, Jesus could bring Caesar to his knees. Wouldn’t this be easier than all this crucifixion talk? And now we understand why Jesus rebukes Peter with the sharp and heartbreaking words: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mark 8:33). Peter was tempting Jesus in the same way the devil tempted Him in the wilderness: You can accomplish all this without the cross and suffering. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:8-9). Forget the cross. Forget suffering. There’s an easier way. Just bow down and worship me and the whole world will be your oyster. It’s really the same temptation the devil used to trap our first parents in the Garden: You will be like God. Eat the fruit. It’s easier and more enjoyable than obeying God’s commandment. You can be your own god. Peter rebukes Jesus for all this cross talk. There’s an easier way. The way of power. The way of glory. Had our Lord Jesus given in to the temptation, we would still be in our sins. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus says to Peter. “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33).

What causes us to get the wrong Jesus is that we do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. We do not understand the divine necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death for our sins. Nor do we like it. There has to be an easier way, a more glorious way, a less grotesque and bloody way. And what Jesus says next is a great offense to our fallen flesh: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (vv. 34-35). You, Peter… You, dear Christian, are called not only to believe in, trust, and follow a suffering Savior who is crucified for your sins. You are also called to suffer for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus suffers for your salvation. You suffer because you are saved. You suffer in this fallen flesh and in this fallen world because now that Jesus has saved you, there is conflict between good and evil, conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil, and you are the contested territory. The devil will whisper his same old lie: There’s an easier way. And in some measure, it’s true. You can have peace in this life if you just surrender yourself to the devil. But understand, when this life is over, you will belong to the devil in hell for all eternity.

To follow Jesus, however, is to suffer in this life, because the devil cannot stand it. He will give you no rest. He will always have you in his sights. And you will always have the world and your fallen flesh to contend with. To follow Jesus is go the way of the cross, and to struggle now, in this life, against sin and temptation, knowing that in the end, the war is won by the life, death, and resurrection of your Lord Jesus. In the end, there is eternal life and heaven and the resurrection of the dead. If you want to save yourself now from the struggle, you will ultimately lose your life to an eternity in hell. If you lose your life now in the struggle, lose your life in Christ, you have all the benefits of His cross and suffering. What would it profit you to gain the whole world, yet lose your soul for all eternity? What would you give in exchange for your soul? These are rhetorical questions, of course. It would profit you nothing to gain the whole world for your earthly lifetime, which is a drop in the bucket, a drop in the ocean compared with eternity. And what wouldn’t you give in exchange for your soul? There is nothing you wouldn’t give. Yet it still wouldn’t be enough. That is why Jesus gave His all on the cross for you, for your forgiveness and salvation. That is why it was divinely necessary that He suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day rise again. It had to be so. For you. You are the reason. God so loved you, and the whole world, that He sent His only begotten Son to die for you and for the whole world, so that you and anyone who believes in Him, may not perish, but have eternal life. Believe it, and take up your cross now and follow Jesus. Confess Him, even if it means the death of you. Struggle against sin and temptation. And know that no matter what, your salvation is assured in Christ Jesus. Set not your mind on the things of men: Earthly glory, health, wealth, prosperity, power. Set your mind on the things of God: Salvation in Christ, His Word, Your Baptism into Christ, the Supper of His body and blood, eternal life through the suffering and death of the Son of God.

And forget all those idols, the designer Jesuses. When anyone tempts you with a designer Jesus, when your own sinful flesh tempts you with a designer Jesus, you say, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” And then go and confess your sins to God and cling to the Word He even now pronounces over you: I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. I forgive you, because Jesus died for you. Open your mouth, and receive into it the fruits of His cross, His true body and blood, given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of all of your sins. That’s the real Jesus. Right here, right now, in His Word and Supper. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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